I was thinking recently how wonderful it would be if the Disney Company compiled a Blu-ray Treasures collection of projects directed by Ward Kimball. To be honest, it’s hard to imagine a project like this ever happening, especially under the (dormant) Treasures label where the only name promoted is Walt’s. Still, I can’t help but think there must be some way for the Disney company to recognize the work of its most original and experimental director, or in the words of Walt Disney, “the one man who works for me I call a genius.” Ward has inspired everybody from Hayao Miyazaki to Chris Sanders, and it’s high time to introduce his work to new generations.
Some will point out that a decent amount of Ward’s work is already available: Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom and Melody appeared on the Disney Rarities DVD, and the space specials and Eyes in Outer Space were featured in the Tomorrow Land Treasures. However, a lot of Ward’s most memorable work as a director, including some of the studio’s oft-requested cult favorites, have never been released onto DVD. The majority of these works are from his later period when he was at his satirical peak. As an exercise in wishful thinking, here’s what my ideal Ward Kimball collection would include:
I’m really into zoetrope-related experiments this week, which is a line I don’t recommend using as a conversation starter at any party. Above is a funky riff on the idea by Tim Wheatley that uses a bicycle wheel:
The cyclotrope is a cycle of 18 images that is spun at a certain speed so that the frame rate of the camera filming it gives the illusion of animation.
Tim is currently a student at the University College Falmouth in Cornwall. More details about the project on his website.
(Thanks, Loring Robbins)
It used to be that animators posted only finished films on-line, but increasingly I’ve noticed that even short animation tests and experiments find their way onto animators’ video streams. Promising ideas and techniques are often explored in these fragments, and while they don’t necessarily merit a full blog post on the Brew, I wanted to create a space to share them. And that’s how we ended up with Animated Fragments, a semi-regular round-up of noteworthy bits and pieces of animation.
Illetrisme by Phlexib and Yoann Lemoine
Stucktogether by Ian Miller
Factory by Tom Rainford
Boxin Dudes by Polly Guo
Bone Dog by Caleb Wood
“Rotary Signal Emitter” is a picture-disc LP created by Sculpture, the London based duo of musician Dan Hayhurst and animator Reuben Sutherland. Music AND animation is pressed into both sides of the disc:
Sutherland ‘DJs’ with home-made zoetropic discs, intricate concentric rings of illustrated frames, projecting fragments of looping images at 33, 45 and 78 rpm — pre-Edisonian imaging technology combined with a digital video camera.
The LPs were produced in a limited edition of 300 copies, which can be purchased HERE. I want one bad but it seems like ordering is a tad difficult if you’re in the US. The videos below show the mesmerizing–almost hallucinatory–effect when the audio component matches up with the animation.
Robert Zemeckis’s animation career climaxed in a spectacular crash and burn with last weekend’s release of the Simon Wells-directed Mars Needs Moms. The $150 million folly debuted in fifth place, grossing $6.9 million, made even more pathetic by the fact that it debuted in 2,440 3-D theaters including a substantial 200-plus IMAX screens. Disney shuttered Zemeckis’s creepy nightmare factory known as Imagemovers Digital over a year ago, and the performance of this film, which Nikki Finke called “one of the biggest money losers of all time,” should finally convince the rest of Hollywood that Zemeckis is absolutely clueless when it comes to producing and directing animation.
Some more disastrous notes about the film’s opening courtesy of Box Office Mojo:
[It] was the third least-attended launch for a Disney animated movie on record (only Ponyo and Teacher’s Pet were less popular) and lowest debut yet for a broadly-released modern 3D-animated movie, replacing Alpha and Omega for the dishonor. Sci-fi animation can be a tough sell, yet Mars still had one of the sub-genre’s weakest launches ever, selling fewer tickets than even Planet 51, Space Chimps and Astro Boy. Mars was severely limited by its premise, which was better suited to a television cartoon, and its execution looked awkward, incoherent and creepy in the marketing.
Rango dropped to second place in its second weekend with a solid $22.6 million and a cume of $68.2 million. Gnomeo and Juliet grabbed $3.6 million in its fifth frame pushing its tally to $89.1 million. The Illusionist wrapped up $72,200 from 76 theaters for a twelve-week gross of $1.975 million. My Dog Tulip grossed $5,251 from 4 theaters for a total of $223,694, and The Trouble with Terkel grossed $568 from one theater for a total of $30,610.
Another simple and well-executed visual idea by Juan Pablo Zaramella, whose film At the Opera appeared on the Brew last month. Hotcorn! was produced by the Buenos Aires-based studio Can Can Club.
Hands down the coolest thing I’ve seen in the past week–heck, in the past month! Graeme Hawkin, the mad Scottish animation scientist who I profiled last year, continues to expand his experiments with 3-D zoetropes. The evolution of his zoetrope process and the making of this piece is documented extensively on his website Retchy.com so if you have questions, go there first. The hypnotic effect is achieved through a relatively basic concept–projection mapping onto a three-dimensional model rotating on a turntable. It reminds me of some of the performances I saw last year at the Elektra festival in Montreal, where artists created visual experiences that existed in a three-dimensional space instead of straight-ahead on a flat screen.
Here is a video of the turntable zoetrope that Graeme built from balsa wood minus the projection mapping:
The image above contains the response to the tragic natural disasters in Japan by a douchebag named Alec Sulkin, who happens to be a writer and producer on Family Guy. It’s the type of ignorant comment one might expect from an ill-educated fourteen-year-old, not from a working professional in the animation industry. He later tweeted, “I am sorry for my insensitive tweet. It’s gone.” Too little, too late, bro. It sickens me that people this stupid and prejudiced have a place in our community. To get the bad taste out of my mouth, I just donated money to the Red Cross. You can too by visiting the Red Cross website, or to make a $10 donation simply text REDCROSS to 90999.
UPDATE: Bleeding Cool also offered some thoughts about Sulkin’s words: “This world view, that the citizens of a nation are somehow statistics to be tallied in a historical spreadsheet of deaths, and that there’s somehow a desirable, karmic distribution to be had is absolutely disgusting.”
UPDATE #2: Toy Story 3 art director Dice Tsutsumi has started up a fund called Artists Help Japan. To donate, visit Give2Asia.org.
UPDATE #3: Gilbert Gottfried was just fired as the voice of the Aflac duck after a series of tweets about Japan, none of which were as prejudiced as Sulkin’s, who is still happily employed by 20th Century Fox TV.
This Oxfam spot was plugged here a couple years back, but I only discovered it and couldn’t resist sharing again, along with some details about how it was made. The piece is by the British duo of Benji Davies and Jim Field, who operate as Frater Films and whose piece The Year of the Rabbit appeared on the Brew last month.
The PSA is anchored by a well developed visual concept that emphasizes the contrast between black-and-white characters and the colorful sounds they emit. The characters were animated in After Effects, while the sound patterns were made from rubber stamp prints that were colored digitally. Examples of the stamps can be seen on the Frater Films site. All aspects of the spot are smartly conceived including the sound and music design of Stuart Earl.
(Thanks, Gabe Swarr)
Need to do some pre-viz work at the coffeeshop or airport but don’t have your laptop with you? Verto Studio 3D is new modeling software for the iPad created by Micheal L. Farrell. It may not be the first such iPad software on the market, but according to Marc Lougee who wrote this positive review of Verto Studio 3D, it’s the best to date. Lougee cites its relative ease of use (only 15 buttons) and fairly sophisticated feature set as selling points. The other selling point is it’s $7.99.
Berlin-based artist Alexander Gellner created One Minute Puberty recently as part of his graduation project from HTW Berlin. The school didn’t have an animation department, but Gellner tells me they allowed him to make this film provided he didn’t ask his professors how to animate. The results, created over the span of seven weeks, speak for themselves. I loved every moment of Gellner’s energetic piece, which is actually One Minute and Forty One Seconds Puberty, though understandably that title isn’t as catchy. There’s nothing inherently original about showing the phases of puberty, but Gellner’s approach distinguishes the film. The metamorphic state of the character and rapid-fire scenes visually reflect the raging hormones that characterize this stage of our development and the inherent confusion of trying to sort out all the changes in a person’s body and mind. Track and sound design by Niklas A KrÃ¶ger.
“Clouds” is the third episode of the Giants series by Celine & Yann, a London-based directing duo comprised of Celine Desrumaux and Yann Benedi. (View earlier episodes HERE and HERE.) It’s cartoon abstraction made accessible to the masses: the little people are abstract triangles, but the cloud (who wears rainboots as a delightfully ironic touch) and settings are representational. In our current age of visual excess, it’s refreshing to see any use of symbolic graphics to tell a story. The blippy and boopy sound design by David Kamp also adds to the final product. When I see the Giants cartoons, I am reminded of the spirit (if not the full on experimentation) of earlier Modern cartoons like Vlado Kristl’s Don Kihot (see below), and Celine and Yann’s playful graphic approach is something worth appreciating.
One of the most exciting evolutions within the animation art form in recent years has been its development beyond the traditional screen. Environmental animation and site-specific installations have the potential to occur throughout our natural surroundings and be woven directly into our day-to-day lives. In other words, animation no longer need be restricted to a passive viewing experience or limited to a rectangular screen.
The most restrictive factors at this moment in time are the significant financial outlay and tech-savvy required to set up these kind of spaces, especially permanent ones. Additionally, each space must be designed individually to respond to a specific location. One such new space is the lobby inside of the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. The Rockwell Group installed over 400 displays in the lobby, and the effect looks impressive. Since each set of 3 monitors is an “addressable 1920 x 1080 output” and there are 64 addressable faces, there is a lot of flexibility for artists to create distinctive works, and I hope the hotel commissions animators and filmmakers to experiment with its great setup.
More details from the Rockwell Group:
A kinetic space, centered around 8 giant central columns wrapped with mirrors and LCD screens. Rockwell Group’s LAB installed 384 displays on the columns and 26 behind the registration desk to create a platform for a variety of customized immersive digital experiences in the space.
Watch it in action:
A trailer for Second Hand, an attractive looking short by Isaac King. The idea: The term “second hand” refers to the ticking hand on a clock; it also describes re-used items. Would you rather save time? Or save stuff? This film examines the imbalance and waste created by these modern obsessions.
Less people in the United States attended the movies last month than
any February since 1995. The only bright spot in Hollywood right now is animated films, which continue to perform well. Rango, the first animated feature from ILM, opened at number 1 this weekend with a FINAL $38.1 million. Gnomeo and Juliet dropped to fifth place in its fourth weekend, earning $7.2 million for a healthy total of $84 million.
Some highlights of Rango‘s opening from Box Office Guru:
The audience was fairly broad with females making up 54% and those over 25 also at 54%. [Paramount] reported that admissions were higher than those for the debut of its last March toon How To Train Your Dragon which enjoyed 3D surcharges helping it bow to $43.7M…Adiences were not as happy with the product as its CinemaScore grade was a discouraging C+.
Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist captured $80,212 from 76 theaters boosting its total to $1.87 million. The film has failed to catch on with audiences like Chomet’s earlier film, The Triplets of Belleville which grossed $7 million in 2003.
Also of note, a collection of Oscar-nominated shorts released by Shorts International grossed $61,101 from 44 theaters raising its total to $1.2 million. I believe the total amount reflects two programs currently in theaters–animation and live-action. I don’t know of any collection of Oscar nominated shorts that has ever grossed this much money theatrically, and it exceeds Shorts Intl’s 2009 Oscar shorts edition ($644,635) and 2010 edition ($1,018,169).
Meanwhile, the worldwide total for Tangled now stands at $546 million and is still rising. It is Disney Feature Animation’s second highest grossing animated feature ever behind only The Lion King, and it has surpassed the worldwide grosses of other recent animated pics like Despicable Me, Wall-E, Cars, and How to Train Your Dragon.